WASHINGTON, June 5, 2013 - The new Federal Communications Commission chairman needs to eliminate or modernize outdated regulations, according to a consensus of panelists at a Tuesday seminar, “If I Were the FCC Chairman,” hosted by the conservative Free State Foundation.
The panel consisted of Gail MacKinnon, executive vice president and chief government relations officer of Time Warner Cable; Craig Silliman, senior vice president for public policy and government affairs for Verizon Communications; and Gigi Sohn, president and CEO of Public Knowledge; and was moderated by Randolph May, president of FSF.
The three panelists agreed that modernizing FCC policies should be a high priority for the new chairman. President Barack Obama has nominated Tom Wheeler for the role, and he is awaiting Senate confirmation. In the interim, commissioner Mignon Clyburn is serving as acting chairwoman.
Many policies that are used to govern information technology are decades old, and that can be a severe problem in the rapidly changing industry, panelists said. Part of the solution is producing the various reports that the commission is required to create, according to MacKinnon.
“To create rules that make sense, the FCC must be up to date on the state of the marketplace,” she said.
The panel also focused on making wireless spectrum available for broadband communications. Panelists discussed a number of solutions to the broadband crunch, including spectrum auctions and clearing certain bands for use. Silliman noted that wireless spectrum is crucial for continued developments in the broadband field.
“Availability of spectrum is the rocket fuel of innovation,” he said.
Aggregation restrictions in the auctions were a point of contention among panelists. Sohn argued that the FCC should work to prevent companies from monopolizing the spectrum. However, Silliman countered that AT&T and Verizon have acquired what they have because they bid on it whereas other companies had the means but chose not to. Consequently, government interference on their behalf is unnecessary, he said.
The transition to internet protocol, version 6, was also a major point of discussion. Both MacKinnon and Sohn advocated guidance from the FCC in this undertaking. While both acknowledged that policy is difficult to develop around changing technology, they also said that the FCC should attempt to take the lead.
“This is an opportunity for the FCC to be forward-looking and move swiftly,” MacKinnon said.
Silliman, however, was more cautious. Unlike a market with various companies that can take different, competing paths, the government can only take one approach, creating potentially disastrous results if that one approach fails, he noted.
“I think we should be skeptical about government trying to predetermine technological evolution,” said Silliman.